In 2017 the global Ironman brand hosted its final 70.3 Triathlon at Wimbleball Lake after 12 years. For 2018 Somerset based Immortal Sport played host to a much smaller, but no less enthusiastic field.
There is no better place in the country to swim in open water than Wimbleball Lake. A 7am start in perfect conditions greeted the 126 athletes for the 1900m one lap swim.
First male finisher to exit the swim was Mikey Johnson from Bovey Tracey, followed by James Haigh of Exeter, followed closely by Graham Smith of Royal Navy Triathlon from Wellington.
In the Ladies Race fastest swimmer was Jo Sutton from Shrewsbury representing Triathlon Coaching UK, followed by Francesca Snare, Witney Running Club of Chipping Norton, with Bethan Rhodes of Luckington in third.
The race on Exmoor really gets started with the bike course. The route taking in two laps of a route taking in many long and very tough climbs totalling over 5000ft of climbing in its 56 miles. The quickest riders would expect to tackle the route in under 3 hours. A huge effort saw 8 of the top 11 riders go under 3 hours. The fastest bike spit set by Bridgwater based Gary Pither of Somerset RC Tri. Second fastest was James Warren from Taunton of Somerset RC Tri, followed by Chris Maxwell of Chippenham Tri.
In the ladies race fastest bike split was Marie Faithfull of Plymouth representing Exeter Tri Club making up for lost time in the swim putting herself into the lead of the race. Laura Starmer of Horsham Amphibians was second fastest followed by Jo Sutton. The head of the ladies race saw a big shake up after the bike.
The final element is a three lap 13.1 mile half marathon taking in the stunning paths and trails around Wimbleball Lake. The first competitors were back in for the run as the temperature stated to rise at around 10:00hrs. The heat added to the repeated climbs around the run course were going to be a challenge for everybody after a really tough bike course.
Fastest run split in the mens race was a super quick 1hr 27 set by swim and run specialist Tom Cooling from Clevedon. A time quick enough to complete the race in 9th position overall. Second fastest was eventual race winner Gary Pither with just a three second run advantage over eventual third place overall finisher Chris Maxwell. The biggest celebration at the finish line went to local Taunton based James Warren, as he dug deep to finish second overall behind club mate Gary Pither.
The ladies race also produced some quick run times in the challenging conditions. Fastest was Rosie Hattersley Bristol and District Triathletes in 1hr 43:22 with Rachel Astington of Running for Time from Montacute second quickest. Third fastest was Jo Sutton doing almost enough to challenge eventual race winner Marie Faithfull who showed good consistency to take the win in the Ladies race overall.
Race director Steve Elliott of Somerset based Immortal Sport Ltd says. It has been an absolute honour for us host this race in this stunning location which commands such respect in the triathlon community. The wish is to build on this success in future years. The race limit will be strictly controlled to protect the legacy of the race in the future. The feedback from athletes, many of whom have travelled a long distance to race on Exmoor, has been incredibly positive, of which we are immensely proud.
Mens Top three overall
1st Gary Pither Somerset RC Tri from Bridgwater 4hr 58:25
2nd James Warren Somerset RC Tri, from Taunton 5hr 04:32
3rd Chris Maxwell, Chippenham Tri 5hr 05:06
Race winner Gary Pither said ‘I have raced at Wimbleball many times before, and it is great that Immortal Sport have taken steps to protect this venue and its fantastic triathlon legacy. Delighted to win this iconic race, I will be back’
Ladies Top three overall
1st Marie Faithfull Exeter Tri Club, from Plymouth 5hr 31:06
2nd Jo Sutton Triathlon Coaching UK, from Shrewsbury 5hr 37:25
3rd Laura Starmer Horsham Amphibians, from Dorking 5hr 38:24
Marie Faithfull said ‘‘I’d like to say a very big thank you to everyone who helped organise and who supported the Immortal Half Wimbleball. It was a tough event and racing in the hot conditions made it a real challenge! However the scenery was incredible and I truly believe taking on those Exmoor hills has helped me to become a stronger triathlete!’
Immortal Sport would like to thank
- South West Lakes Trust for allowing the use of this fantastic venue.
- Local residents and farmers for their patience and co-operation
- Zone 3
- St Johns Ambulance
- Stuweb Timing
- Somerset and Devon Highways
- Glastonbury Spring Water
- The incredible team of enthusiastic volunteers that make races like this possible.